Merkley: One year after Jan. 6, Senate must defend voting rights
One year ago today, a violent mob stormed the Capitol to block lawmakers from completing their constitutional duty to certify election results and enable the peaceful transition of power.
The Jan. 6 insurrectionists were emboldened by President Trump to act upon the "Big Lie," the unfounded conspiracy that voter fraud caused his defeat in the 2020 election, and to use violence as a means to keep a losing president in office. This was an attempted coup to disrupt our institutions, sustain power and overrule the will of the American people. Democracy prevailed that day because of the courageous efforts of Capitol Police officers who stood on the frontlines to ensure our institutions remained intact. Let us honor and commend their heroics on this day of remembrance, and support those who are still suffering in the aftermath.
"While the physical assault on the Capitol is now behind us, the broader struggle to defend our democracy continues — more urgently now than ever. The right for Americans to decide who holds power through their votes was under attack long before the violent insurrection, and that attack has only accelerated since. We cannot let Republican-led state legislatures use the Big Lie to systematically restrict our most fundamental constitutional right. Like the mob on Jan. 6, these legislatures are trying to hand power to their preferred candidates regardless of the will of the voters — a direct assault on our cherished constitutional, democratic values.
"There is no more time to waste. The Senate must act this month to curtail voter suppression, voter intimidation, and partisan subversion of election results by passing the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. Republicans at the state level are trying to ensure that they can seize power despite the will of the voters. Republicans have lined up behind an ex-president who incited a violent effort to block the peaceful transfer of power. Republicans cannot be allowed to also exercise a veto in the U.S. Senate against efforts to protect Americans' most fundamental right to decide who governs. The Senate rules must be changed to pass these bills.
"The Senate was intended to be a cooling saucer, not a deep freeze. The founders intended for every senator to have a voice, but not a veto. The abuse of the current rules is preventing us from debating and addressing the big issues facing America — and there is no issue bigger than the right to vote. We must fix the rules to restore the Senate and save our democratic republic. The best way to honor the legacy of Jan. 6 is to deepen our resolve to protect America's "We the People" governance. That means we must not let any attacks on democracy — whether a physical siege on a building or a backroom deal to block the ballot box — prevail."
Sen. Jeff Merkley of Portland serves as Democratic U.S. senator.
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